Tuesday, March 9, 2004
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A Syrian human rights protest
The New York Times reports that there was a human rights protest in a place where neither human rights nor protests are all that common -- Syria:
In addition to that, a U.S. diplomat was detained by Syrian security officials for an hour, prompting a vigorous protest from the United States.
Although security officials clamped down on the protest pretty much before it started, its organizer was released, because he gave an interview to the Associated Press after the protest. He sounds undaunted:
posted by Dan on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM
You have to understand something about the history of Syria's Baathist regime to grasp what an amazing story this is, and what courage it must have taken for this handful of people to do what they did.
People doing much less than this have been tortured and killed in Syria for decades. Certainly the international environment has changed lately, especially with an American army across Syria's border with Iraq, and Bashar Assad may not have quite the taste for blood or the ability to terrorize that his father did. But to demonstrate or sign a petition calling for fundamental reforms in a country like Syria still must require a level of intestinal fortitude one can barely imagine.posted by: Zathras on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Dan, let's change the subject. Syria is interesting and all that, but I have been waiting with bated breath for your take on Haiti. What happened to the "grown ups" who were supposed to be in charge of foreign policy? The Haiti action looks like amateur hour again - rather like the earlier Venzeula coup failure, the WMD claims, the "anything it takes" line about Taiwan (remember that!), etc., etc. I thought the first rule in rushing an unloved despot from power was to make sure he does NOT claim he was kidnapped by the US. We have all heard the Aristide is crazy argument but let's face it, when we repeatedly have to invoke the insanity defense (Saddam, too?) to justify foreign policy, red flags should go up. And isn't it embarrassing to have the French remind us of the Monroe Doctrine. So, how 'bout it? What's your take....posted by: Sam on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Does anyone doubt that this is a wonderful result of our the invasion of Iraq? The Bush administration deserves full credit for this new development. Thank God, that President Bush and the neoconservatives listen intently to Bernard Lewis. We are a safer nation because of it.posted by: David Thomson on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
“I thought the first rule in rushing an unloved despot from power was to make sure he does NOT claim he was kidnapped by the US.”
Wow, are you suggesting that the Bush administration should have cut out Aristide’s tongue---or even killed him? You must be an awful human being.posted by: David Thomson on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Like protests in Syria are going to lead to anything less then a Tianamen style massacre.posted by: Revolutionary Blogger on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Its a sad day when I cant tell if people are being sarcastic or not anymore.posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
It is indeed a great story.
“Its a sad day when I cant tell if people are being sarcastic or not anymore.”
I’m not sure if you are referring to Sam. However, I will try to answer your question as if this is indeed the case. Why did he write something so obviously silly? You must realize that this gentleman is a "progressive" professor who almost certainly lives in a liberal echo chamber. In other words, he doesn’t have to earn what he gets. “Earning” a Phd and tenure mostly depends on how liberal you are. I felt like Michael Jordan slam dunking on a grade school kid. Anyone with a lick of sense that unless the Bush administration ordered a hit job on Aristide that there is no way to keep him silent. But common sense is rarely the norm at a liberal dominated university.posted by: David Thomson on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Stuff like this happened once before, during the Damascus Spring of 2001. (Which is, incidentally, well before Bush went into Iraq.) A political scientist who has written about modern Syria told me she felt that came about because of pressure from al-Jazeera, and came to a premature end when terrorism became the new big story. I've noticed in recent months that on their English site anyway, al-Jazeera has been hitting the human rights situation in Syria again. So perhaps there is a connection there. I do know that when I was in Syria in 2001, some people there told me in (definitely) private conversations they were hopeful the political situation might improve in the future.posted by: Brian Ulrich on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
I'm not sure why I'm rising to the bait here, but DT, would you care to comment on the fact that here at UW there's a history professor who has twice been the GOP nominee for Congress? And that while I won't deny most are liberal, there are at least some openly conservative students who go on to get their Ph.D. and everything?
I admit I'm not "earning" my own degree right now by commenting on this blog, but I suspect I will before I actually get it.posted by: Brian Ulrich on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
But to demonstrate or sign a petition calling for fundamental reforms in a country like Syria still must require a level of intestinal fortitude one can barely imagine.
Posted by Zathras at March 9, 2004 01:31 PM
Very true and encouraging if only for that reason.
“I admit I'm not "earning" my own degree right now by commenting on this blog, but I suspect I will before I actually get it.”
Please note that earlier I gave high praise to Bernard Lewis. This man has earned just about every credential imaginable. He is truly a brilliant man and proves that working towards a Phd can be a wonderful thing. A rational and prudent person, however, should consider anyone possessing a Phd in the liberal arts as an idiot until proven otherwise. Sad, but true. As for Sam, what am I suppose to add? He said something patently ridiculous. Has dannieldrezner.com become the onion.com? Is it suppose to be my problem that the man is obviously a second rater? I don’t think so. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that Sam rarely has to earn what he gets. His liberal establishment cocoon almost certainly protects him from justified rebuke. Oh gosh, I think it’s time that I listen to the 1980s Mr. Mister song, “Welcome to the Real World.”posted by: David Thomson on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
It is getting increasingly difficult to tell the difference between you and "Not David Thomson."posted by: Appalled Moderate on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Besides, Sam was wildly and deliberately off the subject. On a board like this one that's a breach of etiquette. There will be occasions in future to discuss Haiti, and Dan has an e-mail account if anyone wants to send him a message directly. If you can't wait, go talk about what you want to talk about somewhere else.posted by: Zathras on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
“If you can't wait, go talk about what you want to talk about somewhere else.”
Yeah, let’s get back to the really important stuff---like the intellectual brilliance of Bernard Lewis. He has long advocated the Mid East domino theory. Unfortunately, the silly adherents of Edward Said have virtually controlled the liberal universities. This link might be of some value:
“Lewis seems to be a proponent of what was derided as the "domino theory" when applied to southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict. Despite the ridicule heaped upon it then, the idea that both positive and negative developments can prove contagious throughout a region has been strengthened by subsequent history. In southeast Asia, the fall of South Vietnam did lead to totalitarian dictatorships in neighboring Laos and Cambodia. The collapse of the Soviet Union certainly triggered the wave of freedom that swept Central Europe.
If anything deserves ridicule, then it is the view that systematic change can be wrought without toppling the first domino of Arab tyrannies - Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The likely alternative to the West playing this game in earnest is not the status quo, but dominoes toppling the other direction.”
Amen.posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Zathras, since I have a certain appreciation for Confucius (which may not fit neatly into the box that DT is trying to construct for me), let me apologize for the breach of etiquette. I am somewhat new to the world of blog commentary. But I do look forward to a fuller discussion of Haiti.posted by: Sam on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
RB declares "Like protests in Syria are going to lead to anything less then a Tianamen style massacre."
Gosh, RB, where were you in 1982? How quickly we forget. Tiananmen was paltry by comparison. If you have the courage, look at the following:posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Does anyone doubt that this is a wonderful result of our invasion of Iraq?
If our troops in Iraq were going to cause unrest against Arab governments, why didn’t that happen in Iraq itself? The Neocons expected Basra, for example, to open the gates, and this didn’t happen even after the fedayeen were defeated.
I suspect these Syrians would act like patriots and oppose us if we actually attacked Syria. As the above poster mentioned, this was happening before 9/11 after the elder Assad died.
The domino theory was a crock in the 60s and it remains so today. You have simply replaced the communist threat with the islamo/fascist threat.
To quote Mr Kaplin: “Huntington has warned in the past that it is pointless to expect people who are not at all like us to become significantly more like us; this well-meaning instinct only causes harm.”
By chance, I just wrote this post which in part addresses the Lewis/Said thing, as much as I hate doing so. (I have in the past dedicated an entire post to fleshing out Lewis's achievements. I am also not really a Said fan of the stereotypical variety, and fewer are than you might imagine. Said's critics in the Arab world are definitely worth a read.)
I would challenge your statement that Lewis is ignored. His "The Middle East" is often used as a textbook for undergrads. The Jews of Islam and Race and Slavery in the Middle East are still considered key works, and I'm sure there are others. Many people just look at his political commentary and disagree. Incidentally, aside from The Question of Palestine, the only Said work's I ever hear about are theoretical tracts about the portrayal of other cultures in the West, not the other cultures, themselves. So in that sense, he and Lewis are not even direct competitors - Said attacked Lewisism, but didn't put anything in its place.
Personally, I still think that Middle East Studies is mostly past the orientalism debate. Post-colonialism's major mark was left in South Asian Studies, anyway. Keep in mind Said basically attacked ME scholars, many of whom saw fit to defend themselves. Scholars tend to use some elements of Said's work, but many others were never that widely accepted.posted by: Brian Ulrich on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Actually, that post didn't say as much as I thought it did. Sorry about that. But Lewis tends to drift to the orientalist paradigm, in that a typical Lewis book takes the Qur'an as the starting point in discussing Middle Eastern society and using Islam to explain pretty much everything. He's better at it than a lot of people, and does bring in some other stuff, but that's the basic idea. I'm afraid I don't have anything concrete to cite at the moment.
Again, I'm not trying to engage in random Lewis-bashing, just making a critique of his approach.posted by: Brian Ulrich on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
“If our troops in Iraq were going to cause unrest against Arab governments, why didn’t that happen in Iraq itself?”
Huh? Am I imagining things---or did the Iraqis just approve a constitution for their country? Admittedly, the situation could worsen, but why ignore the present evidence of democratic progress? Could it be that there is an unwritten rule liberals must adhere to: the Bush administration is never to be given credit for anything?
“I suspect these Syrians would act like patriots and oppose us if we actually attacked Syria. As the above poster mentioned, this was happening before 9/11 after the elder Assad died.”
Nobody is advocating for the invasion of Syria. The news of the wonderful changes occurring in Iraq should be widely known by the Syrian activists. This should encourage them to seek freedom for themselves. And no, I don’t think anything this radical has taken place in that country for many decades.
“Huntington has warned in the past that it is pointless to expect people who are not at all like us to become significantly more like us; this well-meaning instinct only causes harm.”
Isn’t it strange that today’s conservatives are far more optimistic about exporting democracy to the Arab world than those left of center? Furthermore, this is most peculiar when you realize that we have no other choice. We either export democracy to the Arab world, or the threat of terrorism only increases.posted by: David Thomson on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
I was referring to Iraqi civilian response post invasion. It wasn’t the baskets of flowers expected by the neocons. I don’t believe anyone suggested attacking Syria either, but I don’t think these protesters are pro-American as much as anti-Baathists. Maybe our troops in Iraq emboldened them, but I have my doubts.
I give the Bush administration credit for its attempts to deal with immigration issues, for the idea of, if not the execution of, No Child Left Behind, its policy and execution of policy in Afghanistan, and the professional execution of the invasion of Iraq (but not the occupation). I may think of some other things later :)
The point I was trying to make is that the Arabs have a different culture than we do. I see little prospect of a “Damascus Road” experience leading to a wholesale conversion to our way of thinking. I hope for their sake they don’t force us to destroy their culture as I think it has many things to teach us. So, no, I experience no joy in contemplating that result.
Cultural condescension. We arent talking about Britney Spears and Starbucks ok? What we want them to embrace is democracy, liberty, and freedom. These are not Western values, these are universal values that it so happens have been repressed and buried by hundreds of years of tyranny and fear. As we are already seeing in Iraq, once the veil of fear begins to lift (and it takes time) _all_ people seek out liberty. Its just a matter of keeping the sharks of the world from grabbing the reigns and reinstituting tyranny, but that has always been the problem for every culture. Hence constitutional law.posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
"What we want them to embrace is democracy, liberty, and freedom. These are not Western values, these are universal values that it so happens have been repressed and buried by hundreds of years of tyranny and fear."
They are? I thought they were enlightenment values. Can you name one non-western thinker who championed these values?posted by: TexasToast on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
"They are? I thought they were enlightenment values. Can you name one non-western thinker who championed these values?"
Mahatma Ghandi brought democracy and civil society to a nation of 1 billion. Does that count?
Nelson Mandela? (Notwithstanding the fact that he's become a socialist)
The Dalai Lama?
Sutan Syahrir? Indonesia's first prime minister who fought for democratic independence before the UN?
posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
This is very nice, except that remember that political liberalization will inevitably lead to democratic governments that probably resent US hegemony, will want higher commodity prices in order to generate domestic growth (funny how totalitarian governments depress economic growth and control prices that way), virulently anti-Isreal governments, with stronger armies since democracies generally are more prosperous and afford better armies, and may give more money to anti-US Iraqi insurgency movements since in prosperous free societies governments have a difficult time controlling individual charitable donations.
Anyone remember the Irish-American IRA funding movement?
Oh, and once they all become nice cooperating robust prosperous democracies how are we going to keep them from getting the A-Bomb? Remember, it's a wildly popular idea in Pakistan, and any government that wants to stay in power will have to accede to the "demands of the people".
This is nice news for the people in Syria, however if anyone is selling the idea that these people will turn the United States with open arms and throw flowers at us ... well those expecting gratitude and who will be shocked at the turn of events that follow when it is not forthcoming will indeed be amusing fodder.
No, I'm not against democratization but the way it's being carried out is in the worst possible way endangering the national security interests of the United States of America.posted by: Oldman on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Is there any history of a liberal democracy becoming a beligerant enemy of the US? Or a beligerant period? I guess it comes to this, do you believe in social evolution, that human societies that become more free become more wealthy and hence become better enlightened citizens of the world? Or do you believe that white Westerners through the grace of god are suited to this while the lesser peoples prefer to wallow in their own barbarity? It took the West almost a thousand years to crawl out of its Dark Ages, but it happened. The Arab world has significantly less far to climb, plus they have help if they ask for it. The hardest work has already been done. I, for one, reject this line of social snobbery. Look at the Iraqis just this week. They are torn between great fear and great desire for freedom and liberty. The latter is gaining momementum. Isnt it the very point of America that liberty is for every human, that its the way God wanted man to live? There are worse things to bet on then the advance of freedom.posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
The people you cite were political leaders, nationalists, and anti-colonialists who agitated for the rights of the dispossessed. None championed western style free market capitalism.
"...become more wealthy and hence become better enlightened citizens of the world?"
So wealth leads to enlightenment?
" ...while the lesser peoples prefer to wallow in their own barbarity?"
Why are you describing Arabs as a lesser people? Do you realize that almost everything we know about the Greeks and Romans is because the Arabs and the Irish preserved the knowledge while we were "wallowing in our own barbarity"?
Don't assume the Arabs desire what you do.
"The people you cite were political leaders, nationalists, and anti-colonialists who agitated for the rights of the dispossessed. None championed western style free market capitalism. "
Ah, so we're moving the goal posts. Lets take a look at the original assertion:
""What we want them to embrace is democracy, liberty, and freedom. These are not Western values, these are universal values that it so happens have been repressed and buried by hundreds of years of tyranny and fear."
They are? I thought they were enlightenment values. Can you name one non-western thinker who championed these values?"
Democracy, liberty, and freedom are synonimous with western style capitalism? Perhaps so but that was not the assertion.
"Why are you describing Arabs as a lesser people?"
"Don't assume the Arabs desire what you do."
Dont assume they dont. Personally I deeply believe ever society yearns for freedom and liberty. Fear of one kind or another holds it back. If you dont believe that what do you believe?posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
Yes the assertion was that democracy, liberty and freedom are not western values but are universal values. They are not universal values. They were not even western values until the eighteenth century. All of these values were developed from a western European worldview with Greek antecedents that would have been lost to us but for the Arabs. None were “repressed by hundreds of years of tyranny and fear” as none have existed for that length of time.
All of your examples had value systems that placed primary emphasis on oriental values like asceticism, spirituality, and non-violence. Their success was caused in great part by the fact that westerners didn’t really understand them. The British were astounded that a man dressed only in a piece of cloth could challenge the British Empire. George Washington they could understand. Gandhi was an enigma.
Interestingly, your examples clearly rejected this assertion. Gandhi, Mandela and the Dali Lama were all ascetic spiritual men who rejected materialism.
What does one do before enlightenment? Chop Wood.
sorry for the thread hijack - back to syriaposted by: TexasToast on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
The Universal Theory of Gravitation was discovered by Western scientists. Does that make it a 'Western' value? Or do people in Cambodia not float off into space only because of Western cultural contamination?
Texas Toast says:
No. But they are western values.
And this goes directly to the question of cultural values I've raised several times.posted by: Bithead on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
What if there was a major rebellion against the government in one of the kingdoms that Washington supports, such as Saudi Arabia, or in a dictatorship that Washington supports, such as Pakistan?
I wonder how the supporters of Wilsonian interventionism and internationalism - those who support regime change in countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Syria - would react in cases such as those.posted by: Aakash on 03.09.04 at 01:13 PM [permalink]
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